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Tighter restriction on painkillers takes effect Oct. 6. What you should know

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Tighter restrictions on drugs that contain hydrocodone, an addictive painkiller, imposed by federal agencies have come into effect from Oct. 6 this year. Many pharmacists and doctors have welcomed the latest move.

Medicines that contain hydrocodone are usually prescribed to patients suffering from moderate to severe pain. Doctors usually prescribe such medicines for about a month or less after a surgery or injury. In some cases hydrocodone medicines are prescribed for over a month and people who take it some longer time may develop some addiction. Experts also believe that the use of drugs containing hydrocodone has been abused in the past. In 2012, doctors wrote over 125 million prescriptions for medicines containing hydrocodone.

The latest restrictions have been put in place by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the new rules mean that hydrocodone medicines will be prescribed per the prescribing rules of other painkillers such as oxycodone and codeine. Patients will be restricted to only one 90-day supply of such drugs. Patients will have to visit their healthcare professionals to get a refill. Physician assistants and nurses will not be allowed to prescribe the drug in many states.

The tighter restrictions by DEA are being opposed by many patients who take the drug on a regular basis. More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain and use a hydrocodone medicine without written prescription.

Many healthcare professionals believe that the latest restrictions were long overdue. Hydrocodone containing medicines have been out of control and it was very important for healthcare agencies to regulate the use of such medicines.

The latest restrictions have also created some confusion for pharmacists as the rule states pharmacies should recognize refills, which have been authorized prior to Oct.6. The refills are also said to be valid until Apr. 8, 2015.

However, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) reveals that it is still waiting for more clarity on the latest rules.

"Most states have not provided clarity with respect to whether such refills will be valid under state law. Moreover, most pharmacies will not be able to process such refills due to existing quality and safety operations and processes; such pharmacy operations and processes cannot be modified in a mere 45-day time frame," per a NACDS statement.

NACDS also suggests that DEA and other relevant agencies should work together and understand the situation for patients to get the best benefits from the latest rules without any hassles.

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